In late July 2013, Google launched an inexpensive device for
wireless screen sharing: the $35 Chromecast.
Billed as an accessory for your television, the Chromecast plugs into an HDMI
port and is powered via USB or AC adapter. After a bit of setup, you “cast”
video to the Chromecast from YouTube or Netflix. Android users may also “cast”
music or movies from the Google Play store.
There’s also a more serious side to the Chromecast. Chrome
browser users can “cast” content from a single browser tab to the device,
thanks to a free Chrome browser extension. You can cast a tab containing Google
Docs, Sheets or Slides – or any web page, for that matter. This makes the
Chromecast device useful in meeting rooms.
Here’s what you need to know to setup and use the Chromecast
The Chromecast device plugs into an HDMI port, and requires
- A nearby USB port or power
outlet (to power the Chromecast device),
- A WiFi network, and
- A TV or projector with an
open HDMI port.
If you connect the Chromecast to a TV, use the AC power
adapter, that way, when you start casting, the Chromecast will power on the TV
and switch the input selector to the Chromecast automatically. This feature
requires HDMI-CEC, or HDMI Consumer Electronics Control, which most recent TVs
support. Chromecast should work with any TV, computer monitor or projector with
an HDMI input.
You can set up your Chromecast from a browser or an Android
app. To setup from a browser, use the Chrome browser and install the Google cast extension. To setup
from an Android device, install the Chromecast app from the Google Play store.
Once your Chromecast is plugged in and powered, wait for the
Chromecast start screen to display. You’ll then walk through four steps:
- Selecting the device,
- Identifying the device
with a unique code,
- Connecting it to your WiFi
- Naming your Chromecast.
Walk through the setup steps on any device by opening a
browser to: http://google.com/chromecast/setup. Here’s
what the steps look like when using the Google cast extension from the browser.
Chromecast is easy to setup using the Chrome browser ‘Google
The process is slightly different if you use the Chromecast
Chromecast is even easier to setup using the Chromecast
You’ll need to repeat the setup whenever you move the
Chromecast to a new network. Chromecast does not work on wireless networks that
have forced login pages, such as those common on hotel networks.
Name the Chromecast something distinctive, such as “Chromecast
Board Room”, so you’ll know which device to select.
Once setup, the Chromecast should be visible to other
devices on the network. Any device can then “cast” to it. As of
August 2013, there’s no way to require a passcode before “casting” to
the device, as may be done with Apple TV. However, both devices must already be
on the network for casting to occur. (Yes, random employees with access to the
same network can cast indiscriminately. But if that happens, I suggest you have
a personnel issue, not a security issue.)
The presenter needs:
- A laptop or desktop
running the Chrome
- To have the Google Cast browser extension installed,
- To connect to the same
WiFi network as the Chromecast.
To present, open your browser to the content you want to
share. Click the “Google cast” extension to begin casting your tab to
Share the contents of a Chrome browser tab with the Google
Chromecast meeting tips
Tab-casting sends the contents of the browser tab to the
Chromecast. Resizing the browser width changes the width of the displayed tab.
But Chromecasting is not full-screen mirroring. The audience
sees only the contents of the shared browser tab. Presentations that include
opening links and highlighting content both require preparation.
When Chromecasting, links that open a new browser tab are a problem.
Since Chromecast only displays the current tab, not the new one, the audience
won’t see content in the new tab. The presenter needs to switch to the new tab,
then start Chromecasting from that tab. Problem solved.
There’s also no easy on-screen way to point at things: the
presenter’s cursor location doesn’t display. For many presentations, this won’t
matter. If pointing is needed, a handheld laser pointer works.
But since Chromecasting is not full-screen mirroring, there
are at least two benefits.
- First, only the content of
the browser tab is shown. The presenter’s desktop, bookmarks bar,
extensions, URL box, and other tabs do not display. This eliminates much
of the awkward fumbling-around, trying to hide bookmarks and tabs too
often encountered with inexperienced presenters. The audience simply sees
the contents of a single tab.
- Second, the presenter isn’t
restricted to only looking at slides; they can look up information during
a meeting. Need to look up pricing? Open a spreadsheet. Need to refer to
an email thread? Switch to another tab and search email. The Chromecast
device will continue to display only the contents of the browser tab being
cast. The audience won’t see other information. Presenters can use their
laptops to fully participate in meetings, not just present. That’s a big
change from being forced to only page through slides!
An excellent value
For $35, the Chromecast offers a simple, inexpensive way to
present wirelessly. If your organization uses Google Apps, the Chrome browser,
or Chromebooks, the Chromecast is a useful addition to your meeting room